How Automation Accelerates COVID-19 Vaccination Appointments and Patient Registration from Days to Hours for Large Healthcare System
The Problem: In order to meet the State of Texas’ requirements for the phased COVID-19 vaccine rollout and deadline, rapid implementation of a patient self-scheduling and registration solution was required by hospitals in the Texas Medical Center.
To deliver on the state’s mandate, healthcare systems such as Memorial Hermann, Houston Methodist Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center and others, needed precise and fast scheduling and patient registration to be successful in the rollout and distribution. In situations like this, robotic process automation can be a critical component to achieve quick implementation to support vaccinations at the rapid pace required by providers of this size.
Like those in the Texas Medical Center, health systems across the country have been tasked with the immense responsibility of receiving, storing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to their workforces and beyond. The undertaking has been daunting – requiring many checks and balances that are new to hospitals. The first-time experience of administering vaccinations during a pandemic caused health systems and other public health organizations to quickly adapt and develop plans to accommodate the anticipated volumes of patients to be vaccinated in a compressed timeframe, and for an unknown, on-going length of time. In addition, staff shortages and quarantines exacerbated the process.
Manual Processes Delay Registrations, Appointments and Vaccinations
Manual processes are the overriding issue that delay the registration and appointment scheduling process for both healthcare workers and vaccine recipients. Often, the first solution considered by hospitals is a time-consuming, repetitive process that includes the following types of tasks:
- Creating spreadsheets
- Ingesting data from disparate technology systems
- Managing registrations
- Updating websites
- Interpreting and determining who should receive the vaccination next based on governmental guidelines
This type of protracted process substantially increases the time it takes to vaccinate the proper populations when needed most, due to the volume of manual steps. What’s more, it isn’t scalable to accommodate surges that may occur.
The Solution: Robotic process automation (RPA). Workflows for the key appointment and registration processes can be developed and deployed quickly by taking advantage of the existing IT ecosystem to integrate with EPIC, Cerner or other EHR.
Improving the COVID-19 Vaccination Process with Automation
Element Blue has created a digital bot that automates the primary steps of the COVID-19 vaccination process for health systems which solves the problems above and produces benefits like these:
- Quick implementation: Implemented the automation solution in 3 days within the current IT infrastructure for one of the largest health systems in the country (25,000+ employees). Vaccination data from 10+ system hospitals was integrated into the EHR
- Patient self-scheduling and registration: Patients are able to self-register and schedule vaccination appointments online
- Easy addition of new facilities: New clinics can be added within approximately 1 hour (more than 25 have been added for this health system)
- Hourly EHR updates: The health system now is able to update and digest EHR data hourly – a significant improvement over the several days required by the manual processes. This also provided the added benefit of allowing the system to shift resources where needed. Almost 15,000 medical health records (MHRs) are updated each week.
In addition, the bot completes the registration process based on Operation Warp Speed requirements to understand who is next in line. The automation closes the loop on vaccination recipients by tracking:
- date and location of the vaccination
- person who administered the vaccine
- schedule/appointment for the second dose
For the health system above, the use of the existing infrastructure to deploy the RPA workflows quickly was requisite to delivering the solution in the time allotted for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. It also allowed the system to make smarter decisions about staffing needs and vaccination distribution across its facilities throughout the greater metro area with little disruption, and while meeting state and federal reporting requirements.